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The BA (Hons) in Buddhist Civilization

Buddhist civilization refers to the diverse cultures, societies, and traditions that have been influenced by Buddhism since its inception. This introduction covers the origins, spread, key features, and cultural impact of Buddhist civilization. Siddhartha Gautama, born in the 5th century BCE in what is now Nepal, founded Buddhism after achieving enlightenment under the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, India. He taught the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, emphasizing the nature of suffering, its causes, and the path to its cessation. The Mauryan Emperor Ashoka (3rd century BCE) was instrumental in spreading Buddhism beyond India. After converting to Buddhism, he promoted it throughout his empire and sent missionaries to various regions. Buddhism spread via the Silk Road and maritime routes to Central Asia, China, Southeast Asia, and beyond, facilitated by merchants, missionaries, and scholars.

Buddhism originated in the 1st century CE and gained prominence during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE) in China. Bodhidharma is credited with introducing Zen Buddhism to China. The religion spread to Korea in the 4th century and Japan in the 6th century, where it deeply influenced culture and arts, especially through Zen Buddhism. In Southeast Asia, including Sri Lanka, Burma (Myanmar), Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, Buddhism focuses on the Pali Canon and monastic life, blending with local traditions to create unique cultural expressions. Tibetan Buddhism emerged in the 7th century, combining Indian Vajrayana Buddhism with indigenous Bon traditions. Major monasteries in Tibet became centers of learning and culture.

Curriculum Overview:

The Buddhist Civilization program can be pursued as a BA Honors degree over four years or as a BA General degree, available in both Sinhala and English mediums. The curriculum comprises 40 units, each delving into various aspects of Buddhist Civilization.  

In the first year, students learn the background of Buddhist Civilization and the fundamental teachings of Buddhist Civilization. In the second year, the international expansion of Buddhism, the study of Buddhist cultural sources, the study of the Buddhist lay community, Zen Buddhism, Buddhist rites and rituals, Buddhism and social problems are some areas of study. Buddhist aesthetic concepts, Buddhist ecology, Buddhist art, and Buddhist economy are the main areas to be covered in the third year. The fourth year is the final year; students learn Sri Lankan Buddhist civilization, Buddhist political views, some basic concepts of Western philosophy, social problems and Buddhist resolutions, Buddhism and world religions, and Buddhist vinaya. In the final year, students are required to submit an independent dissertation on Buddhist civilization.